The bacon-wrapped-date-shaped hole in L.A.’s heart finally gets mended this week as the Lucques Group plans to reopen A.O.C. on West 3rd Street on Wednesday.
Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne’s seminal wine-driven, seasonally focused restaurant temporarily shuttered in the second week of August following the detection of smoke behind an upstairs office electrical outlet. A minor fire caused by heat from the restaurant’s wood-burning grill seeped through a hole in the tile grout, burning insulation material for 24 hours before the discovery.
The ensuing seven weeks spent repairing the damage provided the James Beard-winning duo’s team the chance to revitalize A.O.C.’s interiors.
While the overall look remains the same, just about every detail was refreshed. Floors, tabletops and the bar were refinished and all surfaces repainted, making the five-year-old space appear new again. And two towering Queensland bottle trees replaced the American Bays on the restaurant’s patio.
“It’s nothing that most people would probably see, but those with discerning eyes will probably notice that it’s feeling fresh,” said general manager Julie Grimm Espinoza. “It’s A.O.C. 3.0, we’re calling it.”
Wednesday’s reopening coincides with the release of new fall food and cocktail menus. Among the many new dishes straddling this late summer/early fall roster are a pappardelle with chanterelles, roasted kabocha and a butter made of sea urchin from the Dock to Dish sustainable seafood program, plus za’atar lamb chops with sunchokes, chestnuts, dates and sherry and a Block Island swordfish prepared in the wood-burning oven with spinach, lemon, breadcrumbs and a local rockfish bottarga, also from Dock to Dish.
Bartender Christiaan Rollich, who notes that Goin and Styne paid A.O.C.’s entire staff during the closure, down to insurance expenses and lost gratuities, has several new seasonal cocktails on the menu.
These include the Cask, an Amontillado sherry-based drink with brandy, pomegranate molasses and egg white. And the Orange Machine, a nod to the national soccer team of his native Netherlands that uses ras el hanout syrup, carrots, tequila and reduced apple cider vinegar.
Of course, even with a new menu, new cocktails and a fresh look to welcome customers back, not even the combined forces of fire and revitalization have moved the restaurant’s infamous bacon-wrapped dates from where diners last found them.